Emory Law Journal


Daniel Levitas


American courts and legal commentators have long praised the Sixth Amendment public trial right, but courts often lack the willingness to enforce it. Although the Supreme Court has consistently held that violations of the public trial right belong to an exceedingly small class of constitutional errors requiring reversal, appellate courts persist in upholding improper courtroom closures even when the record shows that courts below have violated the applicable constitutional standard. When criminal trials are fatally fouled by structural, constitutional error of this kind, the reluctance of appellate courts to reverse is damaging in two ways¿it encourages repetition of the same mistake, and it denigrates core values of individual rights that underlie our system of justice. This Comment argues for corrective action by explaining the rules governing courtroom closure, highlighting the errors often made by trial and appellate courts, and detailing the legal basis for more rigorous enforcement of the public trial right.